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Saniya Gay, the first and current reigning Miss Juneteenth USA, paid a visit to the Antelope Valley last weekend on a goodwill tour to offer hope and inspiration to the Valley’s young women and to help promote awareness of the newly designated federal holiday.

Gay, who hails from Middletown, Del., was accompanied to the Antelope Valley by her father, Ty, for a series of events in Lancaster and Palmdale. On Friday, Aug. 6, she appeared at a gathering hosted by the Justice Sunday Alumni Association at American Heroes Park in Lancaster.

Gay received certificates from local elected officials, including a proclamation from Palmdale Mayor Steve Hofbauer declaring June 19 through Aug. 25 “as a period of reflection, cultural and public education, earnest assessment, planning, and commitment to stand against dehumanization in any form.”

Then on Saturday, Aug. 7, Gay was a guest of honor at a tea reception at the Chimbole Cultural Center in Palmdale. Remarks were made by Bishop Henry Hearns and Palmdale City Manager J.J. Murphy before Gay addressed the audience which included Young Miss Black AV Ambrei Ausby and several high school and college students.

“Whatever your dreams are, just chase them,” Gay told the audience. “You may hear a lot of ‘nos’ along the way, but you never know when that ‘yes’ will come. And stay in school — your education means a lot.”

First celebrated in Galveston, Texas on June 19, 1865, Juneteenth marked the announcement of General Order No. 3 by Union Army General Gordon Granger that proclaimed freedom for slaves in Texas. The date came two-and-a-half years after President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation which officially outlawed slavery. President Joseph Biden issued a proclamation this year proclaiming June 19 as Juneteenth National Independence Day, a federal holiday.